Good things growing on at the St. Croix Public Library

Robert Fisher photo The St. Croix Public Library’s new teen room, chair and television for the Nintendo gaming system.

ST. STEPHEN – The St. Croix Public Library is getting its grow on in its new teen room.

Through a generous private, and currently anonymous, donation, the library has been able to repurpose one of its spaces into a new teen room. The room has activities for younger people, between ages eight and 15, and a growing tower has been installed, which, when up and running, will grow food and give young people some insight into gardening and seed saving through a new seed library initiative.

“They approached us, so we put together a plan to turn this reading room into a teen space,” said Margie Marraty, library assistant. The goal is to try and bring the tween demographic into the library.

Marraty referenced the importance of passive programming and having a safe space for youth to hang out after school.

Robert Fisher photo
The hush chair in the St. Croix Public Library’s new teen room. The cocoon-like enveloping of the sitter is evident. The fabric and padding around the top and sides work to deaden sound from outside.

The room includes some passive activities that students can simply walk into the library and do. There’s a Nintendo gaming system, a selection of games that can be accessed with a library card and a hush chair.

The hush chair helps isolate the sitter and block outside noise distractions, creating a cocoon-like setting to read, study or just sit quietly.

One of the activities currently in the room is altered photography art. A selection of black and white photos is available and budding artists can use pastels and paint markers to colourize the photos. There are cotton swab tips and paper towel for smudging and mixing colours. When complete, the works of art can be taken home or left at the library to be displayed on a wall in the teen room.

“It’s something they can do in half an hour, leave it here to hang on the art wall or take it with them,” said Marraty.

Robert Fisher photo
A just-started altered photography art project in the new teen room at the St. Croix Public Library.

The big upside to all of this is it’s all free.

“It’s free, it’s all free,” Marraty enthused.

The full young adult book collection is in the new space and a shelving unit is being brought in for the graphic novel collection.

Marraty and Fundy Regional library director Rebekah Wheaton gave us some hints about exciting things coming up in the next few months at the library.

The teen room project began in fall 2021 and approval received in December. Acquisition work has been going on since then as well as renovating the space.

“We ordered the first item, the hush chair, in March 2022,” said Wheaton. “It was the last item to arrive in September.”

The tower garden will be an opportunity for young people to learn about growing their own food.

“We thought if we had a younger group of people, then we’d harvest it and donate to the food bank,” said Marraty.

Robert Fisher photo The growing tower garden that will be operational at the St. Croix Public Library later in winter.

The library is partnering with Lorna and Brian McMaster to do some programming around gardening and seed saving as part of the new seed library initiative.

“We did contact them and part of the inspiration was when we saw the growing tower,” Brian McMaster explained.

The McMasters were organic farmers in Prince Edward Island before moving to St. Stephen in 2020. They still have about five acres in P.E.I. along with half an acre here. They have been seed farming and saving seeds for many years and when they saw the new growing tower, inquired about working with the library to set up some educational programming about gardening, seed harvesting and seed saving.

“We’re trying to do self-pollinating and perennials here, and things that need the isolation distance (to prevent cross-pollination) there (in P.E.I.),” he said.

“We had seen the seed library they keep in Saint Andrews and we thought this could be duplicated here.”

Marraty and Wheaton are hopeful that members of the community will not only take seeds but also bring seeds back that they have saved or don’t need.

Brian spoke about the idea of making the seed library a true take-and-return library when people learn about harvesting and saving seeds through the programming that is to come. Learning the “proper way to save the seeds” so they don’t go moldy, and so the library can be an ongoing endeavour, is crucial, according to McMaster.

Community members won’t need a library card to access the seed library. Wheaton and Marraty want to use the seed library as another way to bring people in and discover what else the library has to offer.

The library in St. Stephen joined the Saint John regional library system in 1971. The Fundy Region library system goes from Grand Manan all the way to Sussex.

robertfisher@stcroixcourier.ca